A reader posited this question to me yesterday. “When is a game broken Kevin?”
I was somewhat taken aback. Not because I thought the question was silly, or the answer obvious..but rather taken aback due to my attitude to the question. My reaction and my attitude was at first to launch into something that started with ‘its self evident, due to the following factors…’ I stopped right there. Stumped, flummoxed, bamboozled.
What really is self evident about a “broken game”, and for that matter what defines broken?
Unbalanced play, crappy rules writing, poor quality bits, a historical play, gamey enablers? There are just so many factors that go into make a game good let alone an amazing one. Yet the precense of any one of the prior factors is not placing that hot brand of failure and brokenness upon a given game, designer or a publishing house.
Until I understand what broken is, how may I project an answer back defining the game breaking qualities?
As a set of gamers many of us are quick to judge based on prejudicial opinions. Some of us have such long histories in gaming that newness and innovation is often looked at askance. Some refuse to yield to better parts, cleaner rules and are content to swim in the shallow end of the 7 page case point rulebook with two color maps and call it good. Other seasoned players may judge quickly but with relative insight and well formed opinions built on lots of experienced play. They dont really need 10 plays to see that a particular system or a particular game mechanic is not for them.
Others want more. They want nigh on perfection. Which is never found. Leading to bitter disappointment.
Yet more are long time players and revel in innovation, they are able to be impartial judges of old and new. Calling the old dog a mangy mongrel even if it hurts from a nostalgic perspective. We all know ‘back then’ that is what we had. We all know that back then, ‘history was different’, printing costs were different, gaming industry ideas nascent and the market all factored into what was made, how it was made and who got to make it. Back then…the old days things were done for different reasons that they are today.
Today its a brave new world. Fresh ideas, yet not all are good, nor all are bad. Rebooted older systems with fresh paint and a spit polish. New production methods, more ready feedback from designers, more designs, faster production cycles….more and ever more errata. Also more opinions on what is good and what is not, some bought and paid for others not so much. Noise. Lots of noise. Of course all of this comes to mind and races around the orbit of the word ‘broken’. Yet none make the money shot. Clearly defining our topic. How bad does a game have to be? Unplayable? What if I can muscle through it and you cannot?
So friends as I sit here wondering how to respond to my readers question, I struggle with what to say, how to say it and most of all whether to say anything at all.
What about you?